What is testicular cancer?

Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer: Overview

Testicular cancer occurs when cancer cells grow in the tissues of one or both testicles. The testicles are male sex organs that make and store sperm. They also make the male sex hormone testosterone. Testicular cancer is one of the most curable types of cancer.

Treatment involves surgery to remove the affected testicle. You may also have radiation or chemotherapy. Some people will have surgery to remove cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, such as to lymph nodes.

Testicular cancer

Testicular cancer happens when cancer cells grow in the tissues of one or both testicles. The cancer cells can spread to other parts of your body. The testicles, which make and store sperm, are located in a pouch below the penis called the scrotum.

Although rare, testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in young people with testicles. It is also one of the most curable types of cancer.

Common symptoms include a lump or swelling in a testicle, a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, and a dull pain in the lower back, abdomen, or groin.

What happens when you have testicular cancer?

In most cases, the first sign of testicular cancer is a change in the size or shape of one or both testicles (testes). Often this change doesn't cause pain, though pain may be present. If unnoticed or untreated, testicular cancer may spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body.

After you are diagnosed with testicular cancer, you and your doctor will start to plan your treatment. Nearly everyone who has testicular cancer has surgery. After surgery, you may have other treatments, if they are needed. This depends on your choices, the type of cells involved, and the stage of your cancer.

Testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer, especially during its early stages. If you have symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible.

What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?

Common symptoms of testicular cancer include:

  • A swelling and/or lump in one or both of the testes. You may or may not have pain in the testes or scrotum.
  • A heavy feeling in the scrotum.
  • A dull pain or feeling of pressure in the lower belly or groin.

Sometimes these symptoms can be caused by other problems, such as a hydrocele or epididymitis.

Symptoms of advanced testicular cancer

Testicular cancer that has spread (metastasized) beyond the testicles and regional lymph nodes to other organs may cause other symptoms depending on the area of the body affected. Symptoms of late-stage testicular cancer may include:

  • Dull pain in the lower back and belly.
  • Lack of energy, sweating for no clear reason, fever, or a general feeling of illness.
  • Shortness of breath, coughing, or chest pain.
  • Headache or confusion.

How is testicular cancer treated?

Treatment for testicular cancer is based on the type and stage of the cancer and other things, such as your overall health. The main treatment is surgery to remove the testicle. This may be the only treatment you need. Sometimes there is treatment after surgery, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

How is testicular cancer diagnosed?

If testicular cancer is suspected, your doctor will do tests. An ultrasound may be used to rule out other possible causes of a testicle problem. Blood or imaging tests may also be done. If these tests show signs of cancer, you will have surgery to remove the testicle. It will be checked for cancer.

How can you care for yourself when you have testicular cancer?

Focus on taking care of yourself. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and taking medicines as prescribed may help you feel better. Get some physical activity each day if you can, and make time for things you enjoy. Consider joining a support group or talking with a counselor.

What types of surgery are used to treat testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer may be treated with:

  • Surgery to remove a testicle (radical inguinal orchiectomy). Nearly everyone with testicular cancer has this surgery.
  • Surgery to remove lymph nodes in the pelvis and lower back (retroperitoneal lymph node dissection, or RPLND). This may be used for nonseminoma cancer.
  • Surgery to remove other areas of cancer if it has spread in the body. This is done for nonseminoma cancer, either before or after having chemotherapy.

In most cases, removing a testicle doesn't cause long-term sexual problems or make you unable to have biological children. But if you had these problems before treatment, surgery may make them worse. And other treatments for cancer may cause you to become infertile. You may want to think about saving sperm in a sperm bank. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about sexual problems or whether you can have biological children.

You can choose to get an artificial, or prosthetic, testicle. A surgeon places the artificial testicle in the scrotum to keep the natural look of the genitals.

What increases your risk for testicular cancer?

Some things may increase your chances of getting testicular cancer. These risk factors include:

  • An undescended testicle. This is a testicle that has not moved down (descended) from the abdomen into the scrotum.
  • Klinefelter syndrome. This is a genetic condition.
  • A personal or family history of testicular cancer.

Most people who get testicular cancer don't have any known risk factors.

Testicular cancer: Fast Facts

Testicular cancer: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have abnormal bleeding.
  • You have new or worse pain.
  • You think you have an infection.
  • You have new symptoms, such as a cough, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You notice any change in a testicle.
  • You are much more tired than usual.
  • You have swollen glands in your armpits, groin, or neck.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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